Account-based marketing: Version 2.0
- 15 February 2021
It’s time for us B2B marketers to refocus and reassess where the opportunities now lie across fragmented and disrupted markets. By doing so, we can establish a better, and more productive, method for achieving our objectives.
B2B marketers have one big question to answer in 2021: what is the most profitable client problem that we can solve better than anyone else? Only then can we work out how to position ourselves and leverage our strengths to reinforce our market position.
Even if the pace of this ever-present change slows down, world markets will remain challenging for some time to come. The emphasis on outstanding marketing strategies has never been more pressing but talk amongst business will soon turn to return on investment; just how much they can get back from each tactic or action. It’s here that B2B marketing has a good reputation; a recent LinkedIn survey found that 87% of marketers who measured ROI said ABM outperforms all other marketing investments.
Still, good reputations can’t hide the fact that buyers’ budgets have shrunk, and, consequently, vendors must fight harder than ever for their attention and business. B2B clients will only purchase if they have a problem which needs solving and when they are convinced that your organisation is the best one to solve it; once again, organisations must align with customer needs.
Focus on internal collaboration
The pivotal factor for B2B marketing in 2021 will be alignment – specifically, to align marketing and sales teams with confirmed market opportunities. Increasingly, businesses will have to engage customers with a process that matches how buyers make real-world purchasing decisions today.
What that means is setting performance metrics and managing each stage of the sales and marketing process to meet sales targets. Still, those who watched January’s webinar from CIM will know that there has to be flexibility for marketers to be agile, especially as they are responding, sometimes in real time, to ever-changing world conditions. Business plans that don’t offer that built-in flexibility will struggle to meet both short-term targets and long-term objectives.
Instead, there must be an added focus on internal collaboration. Once seen as silos within themselves, sales and marketing departments must now align their processes, systems, and activities so as to ensure that plans are on target. ABM is increasingly seen as the best way to achieve this alignment – especially, but not only for high value and complex sales, with its targeted and personalised approach to sales and marketing planning and execution.
SiriusDecisions has reported that 91% of marketers that use ABM achieve a larger deal size, with 25% stating it being over 50% larger - whilst 30% of marketers recorded an increase of over 100% in engagement with their C-level targets. These are the figures every B2B marketing agency should be shouting about.
Flip the sales funnel
The ABM approach flips the traditional sales funnel – where you create content to generate interest and then move potential customers down the funnel to the purchase stage – because it starts by focused identification of specific, high quality accounts that match an agreed ideal customer profile. The task is then to develop a detailed understanding of the buyer organisation and each of the key contacts who make or influence the decisions around purchase.
The marketer’s goal in this is to define clearly delineated stages in the process: from targeting and engagement, through to designing the solution and getting customer agreement and then the ‘close’, and further client retention strategies. Sales then provide the human interaction at each stage, through calls, emails, and, in the olden days, face-to-face contact.
If the traditional funnel has natural ‘waste’, with potential customers naturally falling through the cracks, a prime benefit of the ABM approach is that it results in more focus on ‘best-fit’ buyers. The market is more competitive than ever before, so the potential for greater ROI shouldn’t be dismissed just because it’s a different way for your organisation to do things.
That’s because account-based marketing itself has changed. It differs in a number of ways from the traditional, sales-led, key account approach. There was a tendency with this old approach that, over time, the top salespeople ‘go it alone’; they would sometimes see little or no need to share their contacts, prospect data or valuable market experience. They were meeting and surpassing sales targets and rewarded accordingly, so why involve marketing?
This often led to marketing teams working in the dark, unclear about what worked in their campaigns, because they lacked feedback from the sales team. Without this data, the value of marketing campaigns, inevitably, become less reliable. Add to that the fact that CRM systems are only reliant on the information you put in, and this makes the whole process more disjointed than before. It’s not just the C-suite that are seen as siloed, it’s an organisational wide problem for many B2B businesses.
A further issue is that traditional ABM usually supports only outbound, direct marketing. But inbound activity has a vital role too, especially in generating positive market awareness, as the essential precursor to, and in support of direct sales contact. Also, marketing through press and public relations and digital media campaigns is invaluable in getting market feedback and flushing out new opportunities, perhaps from unexpected sources or for new applications.
Ultimately, if account-based marketing 1.0 was driven by a focus on sales, it’s marketing that must lead version 2.0, because the focus on customer has never been more important. Marketing departments can take the lead on data and insight, whilst sales provide that human contact. Done right, it should lead to more revenue by allowing the sales team the platform to do what they do best: sell!
Want to hear further insights on driving B2B growth? CIM members can watch Patrick's webinar on how account-based marketing can solve modern market problems here.
Patrick Rea FCIM is a CIM course director and specialist in B2B Marketing and ABM. He is the developer of Sales Process Engineering and myGTMplan, the software-driven, go-to-market planning system - www.salesprocess.co.uk
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